You thought you were out.
And they pulled you back in.
Less than two weeks ago, Florida’s NCAA Tournament hopes were on life support. On Wednesday night, the plucky Gators came up with the huge win they needed in beating No. 13 LSU in Baton Rouge. As a result, we can seriously discuss the chances that Florida makes the Big Dance … maybe for the first time all season.
Tournament nuts like yours truly have been following the new NET Rankings since early in the year. We’ve paid attention to the Bracketologists even if we used more grains of salt than a margarita bartender.
Now it’s getting interesting. Florida has five games to play in the regular season and then the SEC Tournament to finish fluffing up its resume.
Three of those games come in succession — Missouri, Vandy and Georgia. The three teams are holding up the bottom of the league with a combined 4-35 record in SEC games. Two of those games are at home.
Of course, we also know the challenges of this team and how important it is for these guys to keep their edge. There’s no trouble with you and I looking at the last five games as long as coach Mike White’s team only worries about 4 p.m. on Saturday.
So here’s what it looks like according to the NET Rankings, but let’s start with a caveat. This is the first year of these ultra-secret rankings so we’re still not sure exactly how the selection committee is going to deal with them. Is it going to be strictly by the numbers?
But we know Florida is at No. 31 despite its 11 losses and despite a lack of big-time wins (LSU notwithstanding). The Gators have only one bad stumble (at home to South Carolina) and are reaping the dividends of a difficult schedule. Not only in the metrics, but on the court.
Florida is back in the picture because of this current three-game win streak with two road victories over Alabama (a bubble team) and LSU (which still has a chance to win the conference). It is significant, too, that Florida is playing its best basketball late in the season and has a chance to take momentum into Selection Sunday.
Oh, yeah, I promised you the rest of the schedule.
Missouri (NET 92).
At Vanderbilt (NET 131).
Georgia (NET 119).
LSU (NET 16).
At Kentucky (NET 5).
As you can see, Florida can’t do much in the next three games. Except win. The last thing this team needs on a teetering resume is another bad loss.
The SEC as a whole may not reach its record number of teams in the tournament (eight) last year, but it should still be in fine shape.
Kentucky and Tennessee are battling for No. 1 seeds. LSU is a lock. So is Auburn. Mississippi State and Ole Miss appear to be in. The league needs Florida to finish well to make it seven.
Alabama is 52 in the NET and has had some numbing losses of late. Arkansas, forget about it. The committee will have a real dilemma with South Carolina if it wins 11 or 12 games in the SEC, but has a terrible NET (81 right now).
But this is about Florida, a team given up for dead after three double-digit losses in a row to start this month. And no matter what happens the rest of the way, this team of somewhat misfit parts deserves credit for the effort part of the equation.
As America tries to decide what Zion Williamson should do with his future, it’s teams like this Florida one that make college basketball so interesting.
The Gators are knee-deep in the argument. And no matter how you feel about this team, no matter how many times you’ve flung the remote at the TV this year, it beats the alternative.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.